What is basal cell carcinoma?
The most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma is a slow growing tumor that rarely spreads to other parts of the body. The cancer forms in the basal cells, a type of cell within the skin that produces new skin cells as old ones die off. Like most skin cancers, basal cell carcinoma develops when basal cell are mutated by excessive exposure to sunlight.
Which areas of the body are most affected by basal cell carcinoma?
Basal cell carcinoma most often appears on sun exposed areas of the body, but it can occur on other parts of the body, too. Common areas include:
- Rim of ears
- Lower lip
- Balding scalp
- Back of Hands
What does basal cell carcinoma look like?
Basal cell carcinoma appears as a change in the skin, most often as a growth or sore that remains open for a few weeks, only to heal and then open again. Monitor persistent wounds for the following symptoms of basal cell carcinoma:
- An open sore that bleeds, oozes, or crusts
- A reddish, crusty patch that itches or is painful
- A shiny bump or nodule that is a pearly tone of pink, red, white, tan, black, or brown
- A pink growth with an elevated rolled border and a crusted indentation in the center
- A scar like area that is white, yellow or waxy and has poorly defined borders. This scar like patch may indicate that the cancerous growth is larger than it appears to be on the surface.
Why are skin cancer screenings important?
Screenings are the first line of defense against skin cancer. What may look like an insignificant sore may actually be a sign of skin cancer. The earlier basal cell carcinoma is diagnosed and treated, the better. Though basal cell carcinoma is a slow growing cancer that rarely spreads to other areas of the body, it’s much easier to treat and completely remove basal cell lesions before they become larger, deeper wounds.
What happens during a basal cell carcinoma screening?
Patients who receive a basal cell carcinoma screening at LA Laser and Skin Center can expect a quick and painless 10-15 minute exam. A skin cancer specialist will check the entire body for abnormal growths, paying close attention to size, color, border, and shape. If anything looks suspicious, a biopsy will be ordered. If the suspicious growth is large, has persistent discharge, or is painful to the patient, the doctor may recommend full removal of the lesion rather than a small sample biopsy.
What treatments are available at LA Laser and Skin Center for basal cell carcinoma?
Electrodesiccation and Curettage– During the first step, a curette is used to scrape out lesions. Next, an electrodesiccation tool is used to char the base and sides of the curetted area. The charred tissue is then removed. This process is repeated three times to ensure that all precancerous tissue is removed.
Cryosurgery and Curettage– During the first step, a curette is used to scrape out lesions. Then liquid nitrogen is applied with a cryogun to the base and sides of the curetted area, freezing the top layers of skin cells. The frozen area will gradually heal, and any dead skin and scabs will naturally detach during the healing process.
Cryosurgery- Cryosurgery without curettage is a less aggressive treatment option for carcinomas that are isolated to the outermost skin cells. Liquid nitrogen is applied with a cryogun to the center of the lesion, forming an ice ball in the center until the entire lesion is frozen. The treated lesion will gradually heal, and any dead skin and scabs will naturally detach during the healing process.
Surgical Excision- A scalpel is used to completely cut the lesion and a surrounding margin of healthy skin. Stitches are used to close the surgical opening.
Mohs Micrographic Surgery- Mohs micrographic surgery is a cutting edge skin cancer treatment performed by only the most highly skilled surgeons. The procedure starts with the removal of a small area of skin cancer, which is immediately tested under a microscope onsite to determine the location of the cancer cells in the sample. Patients remain in the operating room during testing. Once analysis pinpoints the direction of the cancer’s growth, another small layer of skin is removed and examined. This process continues layer by layer until all skin cancer cells have been removed. Click here to learn more about Moh’s micrographic surgery.
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)- During photodynamic therapy, patients will receive a specialized medication that activates when light energy is applied directly to the target area. Multiple treatments are needed.